When the Kid started preschool a few years ago, he asked me this question when I picked him up after his lessons: “Mommy, how are we a real family when my father lives out of town”?
I have always encouraged the Kid to speak openly with me even at the fledgling age of just four years old. However, his question certainly caught me by surprise. His perception about what a real family was (and what it was not) was at worst, constructed from a task by a well-meaning educator, to draw a picture of your family. My assumption at the time was that any drawing that fell short of depicting a mother, standing next to a smiling father and children, may not have been considered a real family, but this is not something that my 4-year-old and I have ever spoken about.
I remember kneeling down to him as we got out of the car, holding his tiny beautiful hands in mine and telling him that love is what kept a family together. I reassured him ultimately, that both his father and I loved him very much, even though we were apart. But without doubt, the Kid’s reservations about whether or not our two-man family structure constituted “a real family” broke my heart.
A few months or years later, we would revisit this conversation with the Kid and my late father, who told the Kid that family, especially in the African context, included not only your parents, but also your grandparents, your uncles and aunts, all of whom loved him very much. Thankfully, he seems to have bought this story, as his parents, his young uncle, his aunt, his late Oupa and my late brother, now consistently feature in most of his family drawings at school.
I believe it was at this point, so many years ago, that I ultimately understood the stigma ascribed to not only being a single parent, but perhaps also from coming from a non-traditional nuclear family. So, I made a conscious decision throughout my parenting journey that I wanted the Kid to grow up in a world where he could be proud to come from this extraordinary and plentiful African family, even if the mother in this drawing would be standing next to a smiling grandfather, grandmother, uncles, aunts and cousins. In retrospect, this decision truly set the tone for my parenting style to date and gave rise to what we now call the Namibian Mom and Kid blog.
The Namibian Mom and Kid is a series of the stories of a single mom and Kid duo that grew from that question so many years ago. With this space, I am ready to share not only the challenges, but also the triumphs of our journey, with other single mothers and children from single parent households. I am aware that talking about single mothers or even single-parent anything is often a distasteful conversation to have in what is generally considered to be a religious, but also conservative community. Nonetheless, I just hope that despite this aversion, we will be forced to have these conversations with our selves, our children and most importantly, with our communities. I also hope that by talking about some of these uncomfortable truths through our own experiences, we will be able to encourage more single mothers to celebrate their strengths but also to become more confident in their abilities to positively influence their children’s lives.
This is the reason why we dedicated the month of May, where we celebrated Mother’s Day, to shine a specific light on this category of hard-working single mothers in Namibia, by featuring the stories of three (3) hard working single mothers on the Namibian Mom and Kid blog. These mothers; Dina, Elizabeth and Victoria, are telling us of phenomenal journeys of single parenting that is worth celebrating. To read these stories and learn more about our journey, log on to www.thenamibianmomandkid.com and check our episodes, we would love to hear from you!